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Recruiter Realities

Four realities drive the executive search industry. Understand how to work within them, and you’ll be much more likely to get on the recruiter’s radar.

1. Recruiters are consultants who work on behalf of clients to fill jobs. All actions support this goal. Candidates are a means to a end, i.e., filling the employer’s vacancy. Very few recruiters spend the time to cultivate ongoing relationships with a network of candidates, unless the candidates have specialized skills or experience the firm looks for regularly.

2. Recruiting is a sales-driven business. Recruiters are sales professionals-they sell employers on their capability to fill jobs, candidates on the benefits of a job, and employers on the firm’s recommended candidates. As a candidate, you’re both a seller and a buyer, with the recruiter as the middleman. Position yourself as an attractive “sale” for the recruiter by being flexible and open to opportunities they present. The recruiter can then help you make an educated “buy” decision, by sharing information on the employer’s hiring needs and strategic direction.

3. Recruiters structure their day around what’s most pressing with their project caseload. “There’s a cyclic approach to the recruiting business, like any sales profession,” says Bill Radin, president of Radin Associates, an executive search firm specializing in the sensor industry. For example: If the firm needs more jobs to fill, recruiters spend the bulk of their time marketing to hiring employers. Once they’ve got a client, the recruiter works with the employer to understand job requirements and identify important candidate attributes.

If the firm already has jobs to fill, energy focuses on completing the project by sourcing and qualifying candidates. On any given day, a recruiter might:

  • Search databases and online sources for potential candidates
  • Interview potential candidates
  • Check candidates’ references and degrees
  • Pitch candidates to the hiring employer
  • Prepare candidates to interview
  • Debrief candidates after the interview
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If the hiring employer is interested in the recruiter’s candidate, the recruiter shifts focus again. Now the goal is to advise the employer on developing a competitive offer and facilitate negotiations. Once the offer has been accepted, the recruiter also helps prepare the hired candidate make a smooth transition to the new employer.

4. Timing is everything when targeting recruiters. If your application hits the recruiter’s desk when they are focused on selling business or closing offers for existing candidates, there’s a very low probability you’ll hear anything. As Radin says, “If I don’t get back to candidates, there’s nothing for us to talk about. I don’t have anything for them.” Recruiters may intend to get back to you, but in the recruiting world whatever is most pressing gets done first.

There are ways to make you stand out, regardless of the recruiter’s position in the sales and placement cycle. A few strategies to consider:
* Have an aggressive, well-written cover letter targeting recruiters specifically.
* Include keywords in your resume that can be searched through the firm’s resume database.
* Target your resume campaign to recruiters who specialize in placing candidates with your industry or functional experience.
* Ask the recruiter where the firm is in the recruitment cycle -e.g., selling business, sourcing candidates, negotiating placements.
* Stay in touch with recruiters with periodic email updates, to demonstrate your continued interest.

Know the recruiter’s business model. Contingency firms receive payment only when a candidate is placed, whereas retained firms are paid for conducting the search, not exclusively for the placement. Also, some contingency firms market candidates to employers, even if no known vacancy exists.

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